Advertisers and publishers should be adopting rich media more aggressively to get the best returns from their online investments.
Agencies and publishers have been slow to adopt rich media advertising into their strategies, despite the many advantages that this powerful form of online advertising has to offer them.
Rich media advertising is a form of advertising that uses multimedia technologies such as scripts, animation, audio and video to provide a more engaging and interactive experience to the end-user. Despite the fact that it often produces superior returns to traditional banner adverts, it's underused throughout the world and especially in South Africa.
Only about six percent of the online advertisements served today are rich media format ads, according to DoubleClick. Many South African advertisers are failing to take full advantage of a tool that could help them to drive deeper and better and engagement with their audiences. Publishers, meanwhile, are losing out on a potentially lucrative revenue stream.
What's holding rich media back?
So why are advertisers and publishers not making full use of rich media to improve the returns they get from their online investments? A lack of understanding of rich media's advantages and some outright misconceptions among South African publishers and advertisers are perhaps the major factors holding rich media back in South Africa.
The first drawback that most advertisers will mention in a discussion about rich media is its cost. It's more expensive to develop rich media creative and to serve rich media ads than traditional banner ads, so many advertisers think that they can achieve more by focusing their budgets on banner ads.
But they are failing to take into account that the results of rich media campaigns are often better, since rich media ads are more successful at engaging users than banner ads are.
Another drawback of rich media ads from the advertiser's perspective is that developing a rich media campaign is more time-consuming than creating banner ads. Many advertisers bypass it as an option because they're under pressure to execute campaigns quickly to meet business and marketing and objectives. However, when planning a campaign in the longer term, advertisers should certainly keep rich media in mind.
Thirdly, there is a perception among advertisers and publishers alike that rich media ads will inevitably annoy Web site users and damages their brand. They fear that users will respond negatively to intrusive ads that take a long time to download and the sites that carry them.
This perception is incorrect since many South African users now have broadband connections; besides which, ads can be optimised to ensure they don't irritate the user. One can also use bandwidth targeting to ensure that rich media ads are only served to users that have a broadband connection so the ads do not impact negatively on a dial-up user's browsing experience.
Benefits all around
The key to driving more adoption of rich media ad formats by publishers and advertisers alike is educating the marketing place about the numerous advantages the technology offers. Once advertisers and publishers understand the benefits of rich media, it's hard to ignore them.
Advertisers can experience a wealth of benefits from allocating some of their online budgets to rich media. Rich media allows them to attract more attention from their audiences and engage with them by providing a more entertaining experience than standard ad offers. As a result, rich media often offers a better response rate than standard banner ads do.
For publishers, rich media can be an important competitive differentiator. They can give their clients a new way to reach and interact with their audience by allowing them to place rich media ads. Publishers can often vastly increase the yield from their inventory by allowing their advertisers to make use of rich media and drive new revenue streams. They can achieve these goals without alienating their audiences.
With local and international bandwidth becoming more abundant and affordable in South Africa, it's time for local advertisers and publishers alike to start embracing rich media and the promise that it holds.
Rich media advertising produces great return on investment today, but even more importantly, it's likely to form an important part of the future digital marketing landscape.
About the author
Richard Mullins opened Acceleration's Johannesburg office in 2000. Richard has played an instrumental role in the growth of Acceleration in South Africa, working with clients to identify their online marketing needs and establish effective online marketing strategies that deliver superior results. This is achieved through the implementation of technology services such as Advertiser and Publisher Ad Operations, Email, Paid Search and Site Analytics. Richard's career includes tenures at Ogilvy and Mather and Saatchi & Saatchi where he worked with clients such as Unilever, Sun International, Nedbank Guinness, Toyota and M-Net. Richard completed an honours degree in Communications.